What can you learn from a louse? A lot, it turns out. Particularly when the louse is joined by a goodly number of compatriots and comes calling on three small, unschooled heads. You guessed it: I’m talking about the dreaded head lice.When they first made their presence known (on Valentine’s Day, no less…how romantic!), my initial reaction was a mixture of horror and shame. In spite of the fact that getting lice has nothing to do with the level of one’s personal cleanliness, it still comes with a stigma. So much so that I sort of felt like we should be wearing scarlet L’s and calling out ahead of ourselves to warn those still untouched to flee from our tainted heads. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked myself, “How can I make this the most joyful lice experience possible?” Of course, my aspirations were not all that high…I mean, even with a good attitude, how much fun could this be? Still, I became determined to see this as the opportunity it was and not the curse that it felt like. And that made all the difference.
We procured a special comb, rented some good movies, loaded up on yummy snacks and jumped in. When the comb rendered its first live bug, it was an exercise in restraint for me (namely, restraining myself from running screaming from the house), but, unbelievably, it was a moment of excitement for the kids. They were dying to see it up close. We viewed it through magnifying lenses and then watched it swim around in a plastic cup for a while before bidding it farewell and flushing. They were just as curious about the eggs, peering intesely into the sandwich baggie full of them. They began a contest: who had the most eggs, who had the most actual bugs, who had the biggest ones – you get the idea. During the breaks, we found a kids’ website about lice, and the three of them took turns zapping the cyber lice with a super-sized comb.
The next day we underwent our all-natural treatment; a concoction we had to leave in for four hours underneath a shower cap. They bore it like troopers. Faith wore her fanciest headband over her cap, and Katy decorated hers with stickers. We took pictures for posterity. When it came time to wash it out, Ted and I played salon shop, ushering the kids to the sink and giving them what we touted as a very high-end salon treatment….without the tips, as it turned out.
Now, in all honesty, it wasn’t all roses. There were certainly moments of frustration, and I will admit to one truly low point when the little buggers were discovered on MY OWN head (think quiet sobbing and something close to the fetal position). Thankfully, my husband lent some wonderful perspective. The kids learned a lot, but even more importantly, we grew as a family. We now have a “remember the time we all had lice” chapter to add to our family story. And instead of it being a chapter rife with misery, it was actually kind of joyful. We stayed up late (you would not believe how long it takes to shampoo and comb out four wiggly heads), watched fun movies, spent a ton of time together, and ingested obscene amounts of sugary substances which may or may not be strictly classified as “food”.
As the lice chapter came to a close, one of my children remarked, “You know, Mommy, getting lice again wouldn’t be so bad.” Amazing what a bunch of bugs can bring out in a family, if only given the chance. Not that I’m in a rush to give them another chance any time soon.